The 2009-2010 NFL season is now officially over for the Cleveland Browns. After a season that began as dissapointing and very painful, they finished the year with a 5-11 record. Sitting at 1-11 in week 13, the Browns reeled off a 4 game winning streak to propel them from dead last in the NFL standings into barely in the bottom 10 of them. The Browns did this with hard work, work-ethic, great offensive line play (imagine that) and even better running performances. The 4th win in a row destroyed any hope that the Jacksonville Jaguars had at a playoff berth, who came into the game at 7-8 with a long shot to make the post-season. The Browns, with nothing to play for today, still came out swinging and played the game the way it should be played. This team never showed any quit all year long and props must be given to embattled, and hated, head coach Eric Mangini for getting 5 wins from a team that coming into this season was widely considered to not have any talent on the roster and once the year started, the good players the team did have all got injured. This 4 game win streak to end the season was in large part due to great play from career backups and practice squad call ups who combined with the rest of the starters to produce some good football.
The star of the final 4 games, today included, was Jerome Harrison. This RB had been struggling to get his fair share of carries for the last 3 years, neither Mangini or previous coaching staffs realized the potential and skill that Harrison had, until he was finally given the chance to be the starter with the season ending injury suffered by Jamal Lewis. Harrison gained 127 yards on 33 carries, roughly 4.0 yards per, and eclipsed 100 for the 3rd straight game, and 4th game of the year. All 4 times he went over 100 were in his 4 starts of the year. Harrison looks to be the real deal at RB for the team, but is due to become an unrestricted free agent after the playoffs wrap up. If the team does not resign Harrison it will be a big mistake. He punched in a TD today that sealed the deal for the Browns and gave him 5 on the ground in the last 3 weeks, to go with his 2 receiving scores this season. His 127 yards today gave him 862 yards on the year on 194 rushes. A very good average for a guy who earned every carry he got. He is definitely the breakout star of the year for the Browns.
The other usual good producer, Josh Cribbs, had another good, solid game today. He had 6 carries for 47 yards and a 15 yard TD rush. He added a couple solid kick and punt returns as well. The Browns have no reason not to give him a new contract now, after he was the team’s MVP this year and is without a doubt the biggest star on the roster. PAY THE MAN. Just sayin… Mike Holmgren, pay him. Outside of these two there really was not much on the offensive side to get excited about, this Browns team looks to be developing into a squad that just pounds the ball on the ground, behind amazing blocking from Joe Thomas, John Steinbeck, Lawrence Vickers and Alex Mack. Those 4 guys were all over the place today opening up holes for Harrison to plow through. Chris Jennings had the highlight of the day though. That 11 yard run he had in the 3rd quarter before Harrison’s TD was just amazing. He ran to the right side only to get no where and busted away from like 5 or 6 Jags and reversed it to the other side of the field and outran the entire team to get a 1st down after an 11 yard run that he actually ran about 40 yards on. It was incredible.
The defense was stellar all game long. They gave nothing to the Jags and held David Garrard to 202 yards, most of that coming at the end of the game when he threw a few long passes and a touchdown in garbage time. Eric Wright had a great interception and continues to be a standout on this defense. They held Maurice Jones Drew to 82 yards on 16 carries, and since the team was ahead the Jags didn’t keep going back to the run like they usually would do. Probably the key to our defensive success today was that we kept Mike Sims-Walker and Jones Drew out of the passing game and shut down the big targets. The D managed to get to Garrard constantly and sacked him 3 times.
I have to admit, this offensive line has come a long way. They are a great run-blocking unit and with a good, speedy RB with good vision, it is a very potent combination that Mangini finally realized. I think this is very encouraging for next year, now that the team knows that they will not have to rely on the not very competent arms of Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson, or anyone else. If the team cotinues in 2010 what they started at the end of this season, it will be a much better year. 5-11 was an improvement on last year’s 4-12, and hopefully the team keeps moving forward. If this 4 game win streak to end the season does nothing to save Mangini’s job, I think it would be a mistake, because he has proven that he can win some games with a team that has only 2 play makers and lost most of its good defenders to season ending injuries fairly early on in the season. Give him another chance, with some more talent and a full year of Jerome Harrison pounding the ball, and I think this team could vastly improve next year.
Now that the season is over, it is time for Mike Holmgren to come into town and do his thing. Hopefully he starts quickly so that the team can have its direction established for free agency and the draft, and after thinking and watching the past few weeks, I think him and Mangini could be a pretty formidable tandem. Only time will tell though, so us Cleveland fans will get back to doing what we do best until we start to find some things out, that being waiting. Congrats to the organization for finishing strong, and I am looking forward to the off-season and next year. So I will end this post with a few brief bullet points for the Browns this offseason.
– PAY THE MAN. Give Josh Cribbs a new contract. Just do it.
– Resign Lawrence Vickers. He is the best blocker we have, and probably the best fullback in the NFL.
– Resign Jerome Harrison. He proved his worth this season and could be the franchise running back moving forward.
– Keep D’Qwell Jackson. He is a great Middle Linebacker, and a captain on this team’s defense. He needs to be resigned as well.
– Holmgren needs to decide about the coach quickly. He needs to either keep Mangini around or replace him before the playoffs end so that he can work with whoever ends up being the coach on a gameplan for the offseason.
– I am only saying this because of the progress at the end of the season and because of how the team responded in the end. Keep Eric Mangini. Give him a shot, its not fair to him to fire him after just 1 year, especially after the team showed a lot of progress and heart.
Thats all for now. We will have more when things start to get going this offseason. Go Browns!